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McMichael, Hester, Peppers voted into Hall of Fame


Former Bears stars Steve McMichael, Devin Hester and Julius Peppers have been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as members of the Class of 2024.

The Class of 2024 was unveiled Thursday night on the NFL Honors TV show in Las Vegas, site of Sunday's Super Bowl between the 49ers and Chiefs. The induction ceremony will be held at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in August.

McMichael was one of three Senior finalists. Like the other members of the Class of 2024, he received at least 80 percent of the votes from the 50-member Selection Committee that's required to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

McMichael, 66, played 13 seasons with the Bears from 1981-93, appearing in a franchise-record 191 straight games. The Texas native affectionately known as "Mongo" ranks second in team history with 92.5 sacks, helped the Bears win six NFC Central Division titles and was an instrumental part of the 1985 Super Bowl XX championship defense that many consider to be the best in NFL history.

McMichael was a two-time first-team All-Pro, a three-time second-team All-Pro and a two-time Pro Bowler. He was named the 19th best player in Bears history in 2019 by writers Don Pierson and Dan Pompei in the Chicago Bears Centennial Scrapbook.

"When I think about Steve as a player, as a teammate, reliable," said Bears Hall of Fame middle linebacker Mike Singletary, McMichael's teammate from 1981-92. "Steve would be what you'd call a blue-collar guy. He was a team guy. As a player, he was the best. You could always depend on him to do his job and be where he was supposed to be. I really believe that's one of the things that he prided himself on is being dependable and being a teammate."

McMichael was selected by the Patriots in the third round of the 1980 draft. Released by New England before his second season, he signed with the Bears as a free agent in 1981. He soon became a regular contributor in defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan's "46" defense, teaming with three future Hall of Famers in Singletary and linemen Richard Dent and Dan Hampton.

McMichael's 95.0 career sacks rank fourth in NFL history by a defensive tackle.

"This honor is well deserved and long overdue and we are so happy for Steve and his family," said Bears Chairman George H. McCaskey. "To be cut by a team early in your career and then go on to the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a tremendous accomplishment.  Steve showed us all what can be achieved through grit, toughness and hard work, and he has earned his place among game's immortals."

In honor of Steve McMichael being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2024, take a look at photos of the former Bears defensive tackle over the years.

The signature play of McMichael's career came in a miraculous 1991 Monday night win over the New York Jets at Soldier Field. With the Bears trailing 13-6 and out of timeouts, McMichael forced and recovered a Blair Thomas fumble with 1:54 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Bears tied the game on Jim Harbaugh's 6-yard touchdown pass to Neal Anderson as time expired in regulation and won it on Harbaugh's 1-yard TD run in overtime.

McMichael was unable to attend Thursday night's Hall of Fame announcement in Las Vegas and was represented by his wife, Misty. Sadly, he revealed in April 2021 that he's suffering from ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. The neurodegenerative neuromuscular disease results in the progressive loss of motor neurons that control voluntary muscles which are responsible for chewing food, speaking and walking.

Since becoming eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2022, Hester was named one of 15 Modern Era finalists each of the last three years.

Hester, 41, played eight of his 11 NFL seasons with the Bears. The most prolific return specialist in league history, he holds NFL records with 19 kick-return touchdowns, 14 punt-return TDs and 20 return touchdowns, which includes punts, kickoffs, missed field goals, fumbles and interceptions.

Hester is the first NFL player who was predominantly a return specialist to be elected to the Hall of Fame.

"Devin revolutionized the game," McCaskey said. "No one had seen anything like him, and there hasn't been anyone like him since. He had opposing head coaches telling their special teams coordinators 'don't kick to that guy' and they suffered the consequences when the message didn't get through. We're delighted that the Hall has recognized Devin's special talents."

Selected by the Bears in the second round of the 2006 draft out of Miami, Hester was voted to three Pro Bowls, won 13 special teams player of the week awards and was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2000s.

Hester set an NFL single-season record with five kick return touchdowns as a rookie in 2006 and then eclipsed the mark with six TDs in 2007.

As a rookie, Hester returned a punt 84 yards for a TD in his first NFL game in a 26-0 rout of the Packers; lifted the Bears to a stunning 24-23 comeback victory over the Cardinals with a late 83-yard punt return TD; returned a missed field goal 108 yards for a TD in a win over the Giants; and set a single-game franchise record with 225 kickoff return yards in a victory over the Rams, including TDs of 94 and 96 yards.

Hester then capped his remarkable rookie season by becoming the first player in NFL history to return the opening kickoff of a Super Bowl for a touchdown, dashing 92 yards in an eventual 29-17 loss to the Colts.

In 2007, Hester returned four punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns. In a 37-34 overtime win over the Broncos, he scored TDs on a 75-yard punt return and 88-yard kickoff return.

Hester returned three punts for scores in 2010, two punts and one kickoff for TDs in 2011 and one punt for a touchdown in 2013. He remains the Bears' all-time leader in punt return yards (3,241), kickoff return yards (5,504), total kick return yards (8,745), punt returns (264) and kickoff returns (222).

Take a look back at the Bears career of legendary return specialist and new Pro Football Hall of Famer Devin Hester, who recorded 34 touchdowns during his eight seasons in Chicago.

"We are ecstatic and extremely grateful that both Steve McMichael and Devin Hester have been selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame," said Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren. "Both of these men were transformative football players who have always represented themselves, their families and the Chicago Bears with dignity, class and grace. Having Steve and Devin become the 31st and 32nd members of our franchise enshrined into Canton is very memorable and special.

"We would also like to congratulate Julius Peppers on his enshrinement and we deeply appreciate his positive impact on the Chicago Bears."

Peppers, 44, spent four of his 17 NFL seasons with the Bears from 2010-13. He ranks fourth in league history with 159.5 sacks, including 37.5 with the Bears.

Peppers earned Pro Bowl honors in each of his first three seasons with the Bears and was chosen first-team All-Pro in 2010. The only time in his career in which he recorded at least 11 sacks in back-to-back years was when he compiled 11.0 in 2011 and 11.5 in 2012 while playing for the Bears.

Peppers spent the rest of his NFL career with the Panthers (2002-09 and 2017-18) and Packers (2014-16).

"Julius was one of the best free-agent signings in Bears history, and a dominant player on the field," McCaskey said. "Our congratulations to him."

The inclusion of McMichael and Hester gives the Bears 32 Hall of Famers, the most of any NFL franchise. Peppers is not included in that total because he played the majority of his career with other teams.

This year marks the first time that three individuals who played at least four seasons with the same team have been part of the same Hall of Fame class since the 49ers had three inductees in 2000: quarterback Joe Montana, safety Ronnie Lott and linebacker Dave Wilcox.